Tuesday 29 June 2010

NOTE: Get Your Charts in Order

I recently saw a demo of a SAS competitor's BI product. The demo was very good but marred by the fact that the date-based horizontal axis of a bar chart was in alphabetical order and the presenter didn't know how to change it. I dare say it's possible to do it, but the fact that the presenter couldn't do it on the spot suggests the product's interface is not as intuitive as it ought to be.

I was reminded of this faux pas when Angela Hall (author of the SAS-BI blog) tweeted yesterday (coincidentally) how to avoid similar embarrassment with SAS... http://support.sas.com/kb/39/904.html

NOTE: Test Your SAS Knowledge

Following-on from yesterday's article about papers from SAUSAG (a regional Australian SAS users group), test your SAS knowledge by trying their word search.

Or try one of the SAS-themed crosswords at my own web site.

Have fun!

Monday 28 June 2010


I'm currently awaiting papers from the recent May conference organised by SAUSAG - one of the Australian regional user groups. The quarterly SAUSAG meats(!) always deliver some useful information.

However, while I wait, there's plenty of good, old stuff on their web site, including a paper entitled Reporting from your SAS BI Metadata from my old colleague Jerry Le Breton.

For those with an interest in data integration, the following two papers are recommeded too:

NOTE: More Blogs of Note

I noticed that fellow blogger Chris Hemedinger recently recommended some SAS-related blogs. One was mine (my cheeks are turning a humble shade of red), another was Susan Slaughter's (mentioned in NOTE: before), and two were new to me.

I'm a follower of @AnnMariaStat on Twitter, and Chris is right to point-out her blog for those who have an interest in SAS and/or statistics and/or education. However, she went down in my estimation when she tweeted earlier today to say that she thought the upcoming Australia & New Zealand SAS Forum sounds better than the recent SAS Professional's Convention in the UK. Just kidding!

And Chris is right to highlight Stephen Philp's recent return to the blogging fold. Started in February 2005, it is a large repository of knowledge. Congratulations on the recent arrival, Stephen. Now it's time to get back to the blogging :)

Wednesday 23 June 2010

The End Marks a New Beginning - With You?

Can you make use of my services? My current contract assignment is due to finish very soon. If you need a short/medium-term project manager for your SAS-related project, or you need a technical lead or development team lead, please contact me to discuss details.

Coincidentally, SAS have just issued a press release on the Basel II project that I successfully managed on their behalf recently. The press release describes how the SAS solution was tailored to provide Barclays with a global credit risk solution. Steering the SAS development team to deliver such a great success was very pleasing for me.

My most recent projects have included a SAS version upgrade; architecting a migration from a PC-centric deployment to a server-centric deployment; introducing configuration management to a development team; delivering a multi-million pound license fee saving by replacing a third-party tabulation and visualisation product with SAS software; mentoring SAS developers; and procuring statistical software for a national statistics institution (following EU procurement regulations).

All of my current projects are almost complete, but it hasn't curbed my hunger to try to find a new opportunity that is equally as challenging and demanding as the last. Do you have such a project? Please email me or call me on 01322-525672 (+44-1322-525672 for callers outside of the UK) to discuss details.

Tuesday 22 June 2010

Bug Safaris - A Useful Activity?

I was introduced to a new computing term the other day: bug safari. I wasn't convinced by the idea, but I'm keen to hear others' thoughts. Why not write a comment once you've read this article. Tell me, and your fellow readers, what you think.

I've been doing some work with a company named Space Time Research (STR). They're an Australian company who produce some rather good tabulation and visualisation software.

In a 2009 STR blog entry, Jo Deeker & Adrian Mirabelli describe how the STR quality team used a "bug safari" to enhance the quality of an upcoming release. Upon reading the blog entry for the first time, it sounded to me like they just arranged for some people to randomly use the software and deliberately try to find bugs. But reading it again more carefully I could see some structure and planning elements, and I could begin to see some merit.

Conventional, structured testing is focused upon the use of tests scripts which are themselves traceable to the elements of the requirements and/or specification. In this way, you can be sure you have planned and scripted at least one test for each functional element or design element (I shall talk about the V-model in a later blog article). On the face of it there is no value in any further testing since you believe you've tested everything. But software often incorporates complex paths through it, and testing rarely produces a comprehensive test of all paths (testing produces confidence, not guarantees). So, I can see merit in allowing users to go "off piste" with their testing and spend a limited amount of time just using it and trying to break it.

As I say, testing is about producing confidence not guarantees, and I see that bug safaris can generate confidence in some situations.

What do you think? Share your thoughts; write a comment...

Monday 21 June 2010

NOTE: SAS Talks: Making Enterprise Guide the Center of Your Business

This Thursday (24th June) sees another event in the excellent SAS Talks webinar series. Entitled "Making SAS Enterprise Guide the Center of Your Business", SAS UK's Neil Constable (author of SAS Programming for Enterprise Guide Users) will explore how to analyse information in Enterprise Guide and publish it to your organisation quickly and effectively.

It's free, just register. You'll be given the opportunity to download an entry to your calendar, and you'll be sent an email with instructions. Then tune-in via your web browser at 6pm BST on Thursday.

Neil will describe how to:
  • Create a report combining output from multiple tasks and export it to PDF or HTML.
  • Redirect the formatted output from a task directly into Excel.
  • Add extra formatting commands to your output, such as page orientation.
  • Build linked reports and graphs.
  • Publish from Enterprise Guide directly to the Web.
  • Turn an Enterprise Guide task into a stored process, complete with dynamic and cascading prompts.
Neil will show you how to get the most out of your investment in SAS software and in your adoption of Enterprise Guide.

And, make a note in your diary for the next event in the series: "CSSSTYLE: Stylish Output with ODS and SAS 9.2" by Cynthia Zender on July 22nd (registration opens 8th July).

NOTE: SAS BI Logs Made Easy

I just found a couple of useful tools that I'm looking forward to using next time I have a problem with a SAS BI server!

I've been quiet over the last couple of weeks because I've been working from home and looking after the kids while my wife has cycled the length of Britain (from Land's End in the South West of England, to John O'Groats in North East Scotland). It's a 1,000 mile journey and Cathy did it in 10 days. I'm very proud of her, and so are the kids. You can see her blog of her journey at http://LeJogBlog.TheRatcliffes.net. (and you can still donate to her chosen charity and congratulate her on her success - don't forget to say you're a NOTE: reader)

Sadly, taking care of the kids' requirements for dropping-off at school, and picking-up from school, and dinner, and help with homework meant that I was unable to attend the SAS Professionals conference at Marlow. I will be there next year. It's an excellent forum to pick-up new SAS-related information and to catch-up with old friends from the SAS world.

Anyway, now that life in the Ratcliffe household is back to normal (well, as normal as it ever is) I have time to get back to the NOTE: blog...

...and I came across a SAS e-newsletter article from 2007 that described a couple of tools that SAS made available for reading SAS BI server logs.
  • The SAS BI Color Coding Application color codes SAS BI log files and highlights important information. The application makes it easier to read and understand the log files
  • The Object Spawner Request Summary Report Application reads SAS Object Spawner log files and produces reports and graphs of what it finds
Both sound useful. I'm just waiting for a problem so I can try them out for real!